April 30, 2012

Our New "Nominating Committee Process/Director Nominee Qualifications Disclosure Handbook"

Spanking brand new. Posted in our "Corporate Governance Committee" Practice Area, this comprehensive "Nominating Committee Process/Director Nominee Qualifications Disclosure Handbook" provides a heap of practical guidance about the disclosure obligations under Item 407(c) of Regulation S-K, with a sample board matrix and other related policies and procedures included in the appendices.

Putting the SEC's Annual Budget in Context

I've often blogged about how the SEC is lacking the resources it needs. This CFA Institute blog does a great job listing all kinds of great facts, of which these are just a few:

- SEC budget of $1.321 billion is 99.99% smaller than the markets it is supposed to protect
- SEC budget is equal to $1 for every $14,329 that it is charged with protecting
- SEC's recent additional budgetary request amounts to an additional $0.13 for every $1,000,000 it supervises
- Citibgroup's profits of $11.1 billion, equivalent to 7.4 more SECs.
- Citibgroup's total assets of $1,873.9 billion, equivalent to 1,417.5 more SECs.
- Citigroup disposed of assets last year that were worth more than the SEC's entire budget
- Other budget item of "Recreational and sporting services" is $4.2 billion, or 217.9% larger than the SEC budget.
- Other budget item of "Fish and wildlife service" is $1.6 billion, or 21.1% larger than the SEC budget
- Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates earned $3.9 billion in 2011, equivalent to 1.9 more SECs
- Carl Icahn of Icahn Capital Management earned $2.5 billion, equivalent to 89% of another SEC
- James Simons of Renaissance Technologies earned $2.0 billion, equivalent to 51.4% of another SEC

Diversity Tone at the Top

In this podcast, Jim Gauss of Witt/Kieffer discusses how senior leaders can encourage diversity in the workplace, including:

- What is the current state of diversity in healthcare organizations?
- Why is diversity in leadership so critical at this stage in healthcare reform?
- How can healthcare organizations' board members play a role in promoting diversity in their institutions?
- What are the best methods for CEOs to approach diversity issues within their organizations?

- Broc Romanek

April 27, 2012

How to Deal With "Occupy Your Annual Meeting"

In response to my blog this week about the fireworks at Wells Fargo's annual shareholders meeting (1000 demonstrators, few dozen arrests), I've gotten a number of interesting responses. Although some report that a coalition of unions and other organizations calling itself the "99% Power" intends to target more than 200 meetings, although only a few dozen companies are listed on "The99Power.org."

Some members suggested the use of virtual shareholder meetings would allow companies to dodge such a problem (a notion I will rebut some other time, but see yesterday's blog). Some welcomed the challenge - some quivered in their boots. Some journalists even contacted me because they had been frozen out of recent shareholder meetings and wondered if that was legal (more on this later too).

For those planning your annual meeting and it is likely to be the target of demonstrations, I urge you to review the transcripts of the numerous webcasts I have held over recent years on "Conduct of the Annual Meeting" including the great one I held last month (these transcripts are posted in our "Annual Stockholders' Meetings" Practice Area). You want to be prepared - but not overreact either.

In addition, wunderkind tabulator Carl Hagberg has graciously posted these excerpts from his most recent issue of the "Shareholder Service Optimizer" on his site:

- Rules of Conduct for Shareholder Meetings
- Our Top-Ten Tips for Dealing with Speakers at Shareholder Meetings
- Our Number-One Tip for 'Annual Meeting Security'

Also check out these "Basics" materials from Carl...

A Revamped Nasdaq Website: Access to Many Useful Materials

From Suzanne Rothwell, Several years ago, I participated in a webcast on this site with Mike Emen, Senior Vice President, Nasdaq's Listing Qualifications Department. At that time, Mike mentioned that he was starting to do the legwork to revamp how the Nasdaq rules were posted, add more FAQs and exemption/interpretative letters and generally make information more available online regarding listing standards, corporate governance and compliance requirements to assist companies and their advisors. All this - and more - has been accomplished. In addition, Nasdaq currently is in the process of changing hard-copy listing and other filing/notification forms to electronic submissions.

Given so many changes to the Nasdaq website, some practitioners are having trouble finding the location of these materials. In our "Nasdaq Guidance" Practice Area, we have linked to all of the primary materials. One of these is the "Nasdaq OMX Listing Center," where a user can create an account in order to complete and electronically submit required forms. The Center now supports the electronic submission of Corporate Governance Certifications and Listing Agreements. Listing Applications, Listing of Additional Shares (LAS) Notification Forms and Requests for Rule Interpretations.

More on our "Proxy Season Blog"

We continue to post new items regularly on our "Proxy Season Blog" for TheCorporateCounsel.net members. Members can sign up to get that blog pushed out to them via email whenever there is a new entry by simply inputting their email address on the left side of that blog. Here are some of the latest entries:

- Proxy Advisors Vary Greatly In Withhold Recommendations
- Labor Fund to Challenge Omission of Auditor Rotation Proposals
- Even More on "Benchmarking the Number of 'Executive Officers'"
- Director Troubles: What Now?
- H-P Gives Activist Shareholder Board Seat
- Online Annual Meetings Begin to Click
- Doing Diligence for Related Person Transactions: How Far Do You Go?
- California: New Law Requires Contractors to Comply with SEC Conflict Minerals Reporting Obligations
- Reaching Out to Largest Investors Prior to Annual Meeting

- Broc Romanek

April 26, 2012

The Case Against Virtual Annual Shareholders Meetings: Martha Stewart as Exhibit A

Over the years, I have wavered - yes, even flip-flopped - over whether allowing companies to hold virtual annual shareholder meetings (ie. without any physical audience) is a good idea. More recently, I had gotten comfortable with the notion that it might be okay for companies that know that their meeting will be held without any controversy. The problem is how do companies really know this when so much of their vote comes in typically within the last 48 hours or so?

So now we have the news that Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia intends to hold its meeting as a virtual one - as noted in its proxy statement - complete with an online shareholders forum, as noted in these additional soliciting materials. And even though the company is a controlled one - by Martha Stewart herself and family - I can't help but think this is a problem given Mark Borges' blog that the company is the target of a shareholder class action lawsuit alleging that the company's disclosure for a proposal to increase the share reserve of its omnibus stock plan was inadequate (plaintiff is seeking an injunction to prevent the company from bringing the proposal to a vote at its annual meeting in late May). A company with a controversy should have its management team and board available to face interested shareholders once a year...

In case you missed it, I blogged about the "Big Fireworks at Wells Fargo Annual Shareholders Meeting" on our "Proxy Season Blog" yesterday (by the way, Wells Fargo shareholder voted against the proxy access proposal on the company's ballot - first one to go to a vote this season). And as noted in this Davis Polk blog, expect more Occupy Wall Street demonstrations at annual meetings this season...

Our New "Disclosure Deadlines Handbook"

Spanking brand new. Posted in various Practice Areas on the site, this comprehensive "Disclosure Deadlines Handbook" is 103 pages long and addresses these subject areas:

- Form 8-K
- Periodic Reports
- Proxy Materials & Annual Meetings
- Smaller Reporting Company Status
- Confidential Treatment Requests
- Regulation FD
- Exchange Act Registration
- Public Offerings
- Deregistration
- Schedule 13D & Schedule 13G
- Dividends, Stock Splits & Other Related Corporate Actions

SEC Chair Schapiro on SEC Rulemaking & Economic Analysis

Last week, SEC Chair Mary Schapiro gave this interesting testimony before a House Subcommittee about how the agency is grappling with the challenges of economic analysis in the wake of the proxy access court decision. As this WSJ article notes, the Staff must now abide by an internal 17-page document that provides rulemaking guidelines and that:

The agency also is hiring 17 new staff with economics doctoral degrees, which would nearly double the number of Ph.D. economists already on staff to assist with rule-writing, Schapiro said. The agency seeks to hire an additional 20 economists for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, she added.

And as noted in this Reuters article, Chair Schapiro noted that the SEC wouldn't be revisiting the proxy access rulemaking anytime soon. That should be no surprise given all the JOBS Act and Dodd-Frank rulemaking still on Corp Fin's plate. And here is more testimony from Chair Schapiro that she delivered yesterday about the status of the agency's rulemaking and how many more Staffers they need going forward, etc.

- Broc Romanek

April 25, 2012

Scandal Involving ISS Employee Selling Information Broadens to Proxy Solicitor

As noted in this recent NY Post article, Georgeson has been subpoenaed in the investigation regarding an ISS employee allegedly selling shareholder voting data.

A few weeks ago, MSCI - the owner of ISS - confirmed that an ISS employee tipped off a proxy solicitor to votes by ISS clients. As explained in this Form 8-K, the employee told MSCI "that he provided information to a proxy solicitor over a number of years about how a number of ISS's clients voted their proxies. The employee has stated that the proxy solicitor in question provided him with meals and tickets to various events." MSCI believes "the employee communicated the vote information by using his personal email accounts and by telephone and that he acted alone in gathering this information and communicating it." The employee was terminated by ISS on March 26th and MSCI says it has been cooperating with the SEC and DOJ.

Recently, some commentators have applied ISS's policies to its parent's - MSCI - practices and been critical, such as this Reuters article and Exequity alert.

Companies Get Some "Larger Trader Rule" Relief from SEC

Last year, I blogged about how Section 13(h) of the '34 Act was amended by Dodd-Frank to include "large trader" reporting requirements and that the SEC's final rules to implement this Section didn't include an exception for operating companies that trade as part of ordinary course balance sheet management activities. As noted in this Davis Polk memo, the SEC adopted a permanent exemption last week to provide companies (and underwriters) with some relief...

Whistleblower Advocacy

In this podcast, Jordan Thomas of Labaton Sucharow discusses his website, SECWhistleBlowerAdvocate.com, including:

- What is your goal with SECWhistleBlowerAdvocate.com?
- Any surprise reactions to it?
- How do you screen whistleblowers when they approach you? How do you do diligence?
- Do you ever contact the company to check on the whistleblower's story?

- Broc Romanek

April 24, 2012

Citi Gets Hit With Say-on-Pay Lawsuit in Record Speed: Before 8-K Filed!

As the bloggers on CompensationStandards.com were quick to point out, Citigroup was hit with a say-on-pay lawsuit within two days of the revelation that it had failed to garner majority support for say-on-pay at its annual shareholders meeting last week. In fact, Citi's Form 8-K reporting the vote results was filed on Friday - and the complaint was filed in the US District Ct.- SDNY on Thursday. The lawsuit was filed before the 8-K!

Here are pieces on this topic from:

- Mike Melbinger's "Copycat Say on Pay Lawsuits Quickly Follow Unfavorable Votes"
- Mark Borges' "More on Citigroup"
- Mark Borges' "More on the Citigroup Vote"
- Mark Borges' "Citigroup Loses Say-on-Pay Vote"
- William Tysse's "Citigroup sued after say-on-pay failure - more will be coming"
- Reuters' "Citigroup CEO, Directors Sued For Outsized Executive Pay Packages"

SEC Issues Warning to Crowdfunders

Yesterday, the SEC issued this warning:

On April 5, 2012, the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act was signed into law. The Act requires the Commission to adopt rules to implement a new exemption that will allow crowdfunding. Until then, we are reminding issuers that any offers or sales of securities purporting to rely on the crowdfunding exemption would be unlawful under the federal securities laws.

Note that the SEC brought this enforcement case the week after the JOBS act was signed. In that case, the SEC charged a Silicon Valley man who raised millions for two Internet start-ups by falsely promising investors that his companies were on the verge of undergoing successful IPOs and were well on their way to becoming the "next Google." With crowdfunding, look for these types of cases to swamp the SEC...

Lot of wild stuff going on, like the Wal-Mart revelations I blogged about yesterday on "The Mentor Blog." Then yesterday, the SEC brought a fraud case against the former CEO of CalPERS - and as the complaint notes, another California fund refused to engage in the same activity as this CEO did. Based on the allegations in the complaint, there seems to have been serious fiduciary violations to the investors in CalPERS Fund, in addition to the fraud charges brought by the SEC. See Keith Bishop's blog analyzing the situation.

SEC Approves Nasdaq Proposal for Alternatives to $4 Minimum Bid Price Test

As noted in this Cooley alert, last week the SEC issued this order approving a change to Nasdaq's Capital Market listing standards to allow companies to list at $2 or $3 instead of the current $4 price. This allows companies that currently qualify for Amex to list on Nasdaq instead. Senior Nasdaq Staffers will be talking about this development - among many others - during the upcoming webcast. "Nasdaq Speaks '12: Latest Developments and Interpretations."

- Broc Romanek

April 23, 2012

Webcast: "JOBS Act & More: How Private Placements and Reg D Are Changing"

Tune in tomorrow for a special 75-minute webcast - "JOBS Act & More: How Private Placements and Reg D Are Changing" - and hear:

- Lily Brown, Senior Special Counsel to the Director, SEC's Division of Corporation Finance
- Bob Dow, Partner, Arnall Golden Gregory
- John Jenkins, Partner, Calfee Halter
- Dave Lynn, Editor, TheCorporateCounsel.net and Partner, Morrison & Foerster
- David Miller, Partner, Faegre Baker Daniels

Then tune in next Wednesday, May 2nd, for the companion webcast: "The New World of IPOs: Dissecting the JOBS Act" - Corp Fin Deputy Director Lona Nallengara was just added to the panel - as we all try to get a handle on a number of murky areas in a quickly evolving marketplace, as intimated in this recent WSJ article.

Corp Fin Issues MD&A Guidance for Smaller Financial Institutions

On Friday, Corp Fin issued the latest in its "CF Disclosure Guidance Topic" series with "Topic No. 5: Smaller Financial Institutions." This guidance provides a long laundry list of what the Staff is seeking from small financial institutions in MD&A.

SEC's Stop Orders Will Run Through Edgar Again

As noted in this announcement, the SEC will ensure that stop orders will appear in a company's Edgar stream rather than just show up on the agency's "administrative orders" page.

- Broc Romanek

April 20, 2012

Evelyn Y. Davis: Retired?

For many of you, the news that Evelyn Y. Davis is slowing down at age 82 will come as a mid-proxy season boost. As noted in this Chicago Tribune article, Evelyn has been skipping annual meetings this year - and even has halted production of her 47-year-old self-published newsletter "Highlights & Lowlights," a $600-an-issue review of her governance battles that regularly features photos of her with bemused CEOs. Although Evelyn still has been submitting shareholder proposals to companies, I haven't heard of her actually attending a meeting for the past two years.

For those of you who have never had the pleasure, go ahead and ask an old-timer for their favorite EYD story. Many of them are unsuitable for print in this family blog. I do note that she is partial to men, particularly if they are CEOs of a Fortune 50 company. Evelyn always had remarkable success with access to the powers that be - and making the CEO available to her often was a wise decision as it made it more likely that she wouldn't turn your shareholders meeting into a complete spectacle. One day I'll collect stories to post (including my own). I do note that Evelyn has been quite a philanthropist over the years, particularly in the effort to preserve Chicago history.

Until I post some stories, you'll have to live with this great WaPo piece from '03 - and this picture of Evelyn's pre-bought tombstone in DC (I believe its two divorces behind):


Sentencing Commission Approves Increased Penalties for Certain Fraud Offenses

As reported in this Gibson Dunn memo, the United States Sentencing Commission has responded to Dodd-Frank directives by amending the sentencing guidelines - effective November 1st - that as noted in the memo "are likely to stiffen sentences for many defendants convicted of fraud offenses, particularly insider trading. At the same time, the Commission has continued its recent trend toward the use of rebuttable presumptions, rather than inflexible rules, in determining certain aspects of offense seriousness. That emerging approach gives criminal defense counsel greater latitude to advocate for sentence calculation methodologies more carefully tailored to each particular case."

SEC Approves Amendments to FINRA Communications Rules

As noted in this Davis Polk memo, the SEC approved a significant overhaul of FINRA's rules governing members' communications with customers and the public. The revised communication rules will simplify and reorganize existing rules by reducing the number of communications categories from six to three. The new rules will also implement some noteworthy changes, such as the requirement to file with FINRA within 10 days of first use retail communications relating to registered structured products. FINRA will publish a Regulatory Notice by June 27, 2012 announcing an implementation date for the new rules that is not later than March 29, 2013. FINRA acknowledges that members will need time to alter their internal policies and procedures in response to the new requirements, and has stated it will take this into consideration in establishing an implementation schedule.

- Broc Romanek

April 19, 2012

Say-on-Pay Failures: #3 and #4

Over the past week, Citigroup (45%) and KB Home (46%) joined the club of those failing to gain majority support for its say-on-pay. A list of the Form 8-Ks filed by the "failed" companies is posted in our "Say-on-Pay" Practice Area. Citi has not yet filed its Form 8-K reporting the voting results - but did address the failure in its "Citi Blog" (which oddly has no comments after this CEO pay entry). The Citi failure was front-page news for the WSJ, NY Times, etc. and I spoke at an event in NYC last night and it was the hot topic (besides the JOBS Act).

Here's something that Mark Borges blogged last night: The shock waves from yesterday's Citigroup "Say on Pay" vote continue to reverberate. For an insightful analysis of how to interpret the vote, see Professor J. Robert Brown's latest post at his website "The Race of the Bottom."

This turns out to be Citigroup's fourth "Say on Pay" vote since 2009 - the first two were as a participant in the Troubled Asset Relief Program. I took at look at the support for the company's executive compensation program over this entire period, which went from 82% in 2009, 89% in 2010, and 93% in 2011 to just 45% in 2012. So it appears that there was a fairly consistent level of support for the program, which spiked in 2011 (the second consecutive year in which the company's CEO received essentially nominal compensation - $1 in 2010 and $128,000 in 2009) before the bottom fell out.

Still, it's difficult to understand how this happened - or whether the company saw it coming, particularly when you look back on its Item 402(b)(1)(vii) disclosure from this year's Compensation Discussion and Analysis:

As part of the process for making incentive awards to the named executive officers for 2011, the committee considered the most recent "say on pay" non-binding stockholder advisory vote held in April 2011 regarding the named executive officers' 2010 compensation. The resolution approving 2010 executive compensation received a 92.9% favorable vote. Several key features of the 2010 program for named executive officers are carried forward to this year, such as substantial deferred amounts, performance-based vesting of certain deferred incentive awards, a four-year deferral period, significant stock awards that are subject to clawbacks and a stock ownership commitment, and limitations on perks. To better understand the reasons for the favorable say-on-pay vote and potential stockholder concerns for 2011, management engaged in stockholder outreach at various times during 2011 to discuss executive compensation in the context of Citi's sustained profitability. In particular, management sought a better understanding of stockholder views on Citi's disclosure and compensation processes and the priorities of our investors. The committee considered the outcome of the most recent say-on-pay vote and stockholder perspectives generally as factors in the 2011 compensation process in addition to currently applicable regulatory requirements, market considerations, and company and individual performance.

Learning Thru Improv

In this podcast, Tommy Galan of The Peoples Improv Theater discusses how you can learn thru improv (here's how you can learn more about earning CLE through improv), including:

- How do your improv workshops work?
- What are the benefits of using improv to earn CLE?
- Have you ever done an improv workshop at a law firm?
- What's the funniest moment that has transpired at one of your workshops?

Finally Got to See My Launch (Sort Of)...

When you work in-house, you wind up working on some funky stuff. Back in what now seems like a lifetime ago, I was in-house at Lockheed Martin and besides the typical securities & disclosure stuff, I supported the Treasury function. One of the coolest things I worked on was a synthetic sale-leaseback for a spaceport down in Cape Canaveral, home of the Atlas V rocket. The law firm expert in complicated sale-leasebacks said it was the most challenging deal she ever worked on.

Anyways, after the deal closed, I was invited down to watch a space shuttle launch but I was always too busy to make it. One of my life's true regrets because I heard many stories about how it was one of the wonders of the world. Don't feel bad for me though, I received some very nice closing gifts including this framed set of pictures (including one showing the demolition of the old spaceport - that was a community event when they did it, like when Vegas blows up one of its old hotels) - see below. The happy ending is that my office rocked off its hinges a few day ago when they flew the Space Shuttle to it's new home in the Smithsonian's Air & Space museum out near Dulles airport. Wow!

New "Deal Cube Gallery": Email me photos of your coolest - and most tacky - deal cubes or other deal momentos as I will place them in a new "Deal Cube Gallery" on this site and run a competition allowing folks to vote. You will remain anonymous as a source if you so wish.


- Broc Romanek

April 18, 2012

Our New "D&O Biographical/Director Qualifications & Skills Disclosure Handbook"

Spanking brand new. Posted in our "Board Composition" Practice Area, this comprehensive "D&O Biographical/Director Qualifications & Skills Disclosure Handbook" provides a heap of practical guidance - including a sample board resolution to designate executive officers and sample D&O questionnaire language. In particular, the Handbook focuses on disclosure obligations under Item 401(a) through (e) of Regulation S-K.

The Pioneers: First Company Leverages Moxy Vote

In this podcast, Doug Chia of Johnson & Johnson and Mark Schlegel of Moxy Vote discuss how companies can use Moxy Vote during the proxy season (here is a podcast with Mark from last year to learn more about Moxy Vote), including:

- How does Moxy Vote work?
- What is J&J's involvement with Moxy Vote?
- How did J&J's collaboration with Moxy Vote begin?
- What have been the experiences so far?

"No Personal Misconduct" Clawbacks: SEC Sues to Recover Bonuses and Stock Profits Again

As noted in this press release, in a Section 304 of Sarbanes-Oxley clawback action, the SEC sued both the former CEO and CFO of ArthroCare recently to recover bonus compensation and stock sale profits they received during an accounting fraud at the company. The two former officers had not been personally charged in connection with fraudulent financial statements; two other former officers were charged for that last year. This jibes with the District Court of Arizona holding in SEC v. Jenkins - that disgorgement of compensation and profit under Section 304 does not require personal misconduct.

By my loose count, the SEC has used Section 304 at least seven or eight times since its birth in 2002 - see the list of links to SEC clawback actions in CompensationStandards.com's "Clawbacks" Practice Area.

- Broc Romanek

April 17, 2012

Corp Fin Issues 17 More JOBS Act FAQs

Yesterday, Corp Fin issued 17 FAQs helping to interpret a bunch of issues regarding "emerging growth companies" under Title I of the JOBS Act - including scaled disclosure - ahead of the SEC's rulemaking in this area. Here's a Cooley alert describing these FAQs. I continue to post oodles of memos, etc. in our "JOBS Act" Practice Area, including this redline of how the '33 and '34 Acts have been altered...

In his blog today, Keith Bishop notes that the JOBS Act weighs in at less than 9000 words - compared to 360k for Dodd-Frank - but yet has a surprising number of technical errors...

Dave & Marty on More JOBS Act Guidance

In this podcast, Dave Lynn and Marty Dunn engage in a lively discussion of the latest developments in securities laws, corporate governance, and pop culture. Topics include:

- Determining emerging growth company status
- Navigating the confidential submission process for registration statements
- Staff guidance on Exchange Act Section 12(g) thresholds
- Dave's & Marty's crowdfunding endeavors (or lack thereof)

Tune in next Tuesday for the 75-minute webcast: "JOBS Act & More: How Private Placements and Reg D Are Changing."

Transcript: "What the Top Compensation Consultants Are NOW Telling Compensation Committees"

We have posted the transcript for the recent CompensationStandards.com webcast: "What the Top Compensation Consultants Are NOW Telling Compensation Committees."

- Broc Romanek

April 16, 2012

Corp Fin Disclosure Guidance: Financial Institution Sample Letter on Structured Note Offerings

On Friday, Corp Fin posted this sample letter - courtesy of the Office of Capital Markets Trends - that has been sent to certain financial institutions in connection with their structured note offerings. The letter provides comments applicable to prospectus supplements and '34 Act reports after the Staff's review of takedowns of structured notes from shelf registration statements.

This WSJ article notes that at least two companies have already sent confidential registration statement submissions to Corp Fin...

Corp Fin Updates Financial Reporting Manual (Again)

On Friday, Corp Fin updated its Financial Reporting Manual for issues related to scaled disclosure for smaller reporting companies, filing requirements for reverse acquisitions, the treatment of related businesses in significance testing, revisions pursuant to ASU 2011-12, as well as other changes.

Chamber Blankets DC Subway Station Closest to SEC HQ with Ads

In what has to be a certain waste of money, according to this Bloomberg article, the Chamber of Commerce hopes to influence the SEC in a money-market fund rulemaking by the use of a "so-called station domination ad buy consisting of more than 30 posters, banners and 'backlit dioramas' on the train platforms, above fare card machines and even on the floor." Maybe the money would have been better off spent renting a giant Foghorn Leghorn suit for someone to hand out flyers in...

Interesting piece in Financial Times on Friday entitled "Our faith is fraying in the god of money." I always find taxi drivers to be enlightening and a good indicator about what the masses are thinking (ask them about CEO pay!)...

- Broc Romanek

April 13, 2012

Glass Lewis Launches New "Issuer Engagement Portal"

Yesterday, Glass Lewis announced it had launched a new "Issuer Engagement Portal." As folks have complained about a lack of transparency regarding Glass Lewis' voting policies over the years, this should be a positive development. Among the other things in the Portal are Glass Lewis' "US Abridged Guidelines" and "Continental Europe Abridged Guidelines." See Davis Polk's blog on this development...

Dodd-Frank: SEC Releases Study on Cross-Border Private Securities Litigation

On Wednesday, the SEC issued its 106-page study of cross-border private securities litigation as required by Section 929Y of Dodd-Frank. At the same time, Commissioner Aguilar issued this statement to note his disappointment with the study, mainly because it doesn't provide recommendations and because "I am particularly astonished that the Study states (at pages 58-59) that an option 'would be for Congress to take no action' and, thus, would continue to deny American investors who have been harmed by fraud the ability to seek redress in court." Pretty unusual for a Commissioner to dissent from a study.

Before the study was released, the SEC received 72 comments on the topic. In his "D&O Diary" Blog, Kevin LaCroix provides some analysis of the study, which considers possible alternative approaches to the question of cross-border private securities litigation and provides a detailed overview of the ways in which the lower courts have been approaching these issues in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision in the Morrison v. National Australia Bank.

SEC's RiskFin Issues Report on Regulation D Offerings

On Tuesday, the SEC's Risk Fin Division issued a 9-page report entitled "Capital Raising in the U.S.: the Significance of Unregistered Offerings Using the Regulation D Exemption" that crunches numbers extracted from Form D filings since early '09 with goal of understanding the amount and nature of capital raised through Reg D unregistered offerings and to provide a perspective on the state of competition and regulatory burden in capital markets.

As far as I can tell, it's Risk Fin's first report dealing with a Corp Fin topic (hard to tell as reports are not listed on RiskFin's webpage) - and it's formatted in a style that I haven't seen the SEC use before (has more of an academic feel). Oddly, the report is dated February 2012 even though it was just posted.

In his blog, Steve Quinlivan notes that some highlights of the report include:

- The median Reg D offering is modest in size: approximately $1 million.
- Both Rule 505 and Rule 506 (the most frequently used exemption in the Reg D filings) allow an issuer to sell securities to an unlimited number of accredited investors and up to 35 non-accredited investors. The average amount of non-accredited investors in the Reg D offerings over the entire period is 0.1, while the median is 0. In fact, in approximately 90% of the offerings there are no non-accredited investors.
- Capital raised through Reg D offerings is more than twice as large as public equity offerings as well as each other category of unregistered offerings.
- Less than one-third (29%) of issuers are pooled investment funds (i.e. hedge funds, private equity funds and the like), of which a little more than half (55%) are hedge funds (i.e., 16% of all Reg D offerings are by self-reported hedge funds).
- Excluding hedge funds and other investment funds, issuers of private offerings tend to be small. Although a significant number of issuers decline to disclose their sizes (50%), for those that do, most have revenue of less than $1 million. Only 1.8% of all new offerings are by issuers that report more than $100 million in revenues.

And here is more analysis from Vanessa Schoenthaler's blog...

- Broc Romanek

April 12, 2012

Corp Fin Issues '34 Act Registration & Deregistration FAQs

Yesterday, Corp Fin issued 5 FAQs regarding Section 12(g) registration triggers and, for banks and bank holding companies, the Section 12(g) and Section 15(d) deregistration and cessation of reporting triggers.

I have to hand it to the Corp Fin Staff. I've never seen a new set of guidance come out every single day, not an easy thing to do and it definitely helps those of us navigating uncharted waters. I already have JOBS Act fatigue just watching from the sidelines (with a related case of JOBS Act carpal tunnel posting so many memos in our "JOBS Act" Practice Area)...

JOBS Act: SEC Offers "Comment Letter" Field Day

Akin to what it did nearly two years ago in the wake of Dodd-Frank, the SEC announced yesterday that it would accept comments ahead of proposing any rulemaking under the JOBS Act. Here's the SEC's new "JOBS Act Comments Page."

And here is my blog from two years ago when the SEC did this for Dodd-Frank, as most of my commentary from then still applies. Looking back at the "Dodd-Frank Comment Page," it does appear that some folks did take advantage of pre-rulingmaking commenting - although I have no idea how useful those comments were for the SEC ahead of drafting proposals.

My gut feeling is that the JOBS Act will not be quite so "popular" in attracting advance comments as the topics tend to be little "technical" for the general public and many of the rulemakings won't impact a vast majority of existing public companies. Plus you would be shocked how many folks still haven't gotten the news that the JOBS Act has changed the '33 Act dramatically - many of us practice in several different fields and don't have time to keep up with the very latest (ie. they don't read this blog!). Anyways, weigh in yourself in the anonymous poll below...

Poll: Commenting in Advance of SEC's JOBS Act Rulemaking

Please take a moment for this anonymous poll:

- Broc Romanekyou got it, thx

April 11, 2012

Last Chance: 25% Early Bird Conference Discount Ends This Friday!

Last chance to take advantage of 25% off for our popular conferences - "Tackling Your 2013 Compensation Disclosures: 7th Annual Proxy Disclosure Conference" & "Say-on-Pay Workshop: 9th Annual Executive Compensation Conference" - to be held October 8-9th in New Orleans and via Live Nationwide Video Webcast. Here is the agenda for the Proxy Disclosure Conference (the Executive Compensation Conference's agenda will be posted in the next week or so).

Early Bird Rates - Act by End of this Friday, April 13th: For the special early bird discount rate - both of the Conferences are bundled together with a single price - register by the end of this Friday, April 13th.

JOBS Act: Corp Fin's New "Confidential Registration Statement Submissions" FAQs

Yesterday, Corp Fin issued 13 FAQs relating to the confidential submission process for draft registration statements by emerging growth companies. This new guidance is in addition to last week's announcement about the confidential submission process.

As noted in this O'Melveny & Myers alert, key Staff pronouncements include:

- The Staff will not object if an emerging growth company does not treat "test-the-waters" communications conducted in reliance on Section 5(d) as a road show for purposes of Section 6(e). Section 5(d) test-the-waters communications are limited to communications with qualified institutional buyers ("QIBs") and institutional accredited investors.

- An issuer currently in registration at the time of enactment of the JOBS Act that qualifies as an emerging growth company may switch to the confidential submission process for future amendments.

- A foreign private issuer that qualifies as an emerging growth company may use the confidential submission process to the same extent as a domestic company.

- Draft registration statements submitted confidentiality must be "substantially complete," including a signed audit report of the registered public accounting firm and exhibits consistent with the existing requirements for non-public submissions by foreign private issuers.

Transcript: "The SEC Staff on M&A"

We have posted the transcript for the recent DealLawyers.com webcast: ""The SEC Staff on M&A."

- Broc Romanek

April 10, 2012

White House to Monitor JOBS Act: Sort Of

When President Obama signed the JOBS Act last week, he issued this statement that includes this excerpt:

The President is directing the Treasury Department, Small Business Administration and Department of Justice to closely monitor the implementation of this legislation to ensure that it is achieving its goals of enhancing access capital while maintaining appropriate investor protections. These agencies, consulting closely with the SEC and key non-governmental stakeholders, will report their findings to the President on a biannual basis, and will include recommendations for additional necessary steps to ensure that the legislation achieves its goals.

No doubt this is a reaction to the many Democrats who railed against the JOBS Act over the past month (and the response of some in Congress to reporter's questions of whether they would monitor its consequences - the answer which was 'no' - at least they are honest about that!). But it's just so strange - and unfortunately predictable these days - that the leaders in our government don't even seem to know who should be minding the store. The Treasury, SBA and DOJ monitoring the securities laws? So I guess the SEC should be monitoring food and drugs...

Will the JOBS Act Rulemaking Impact the SEC's Dodd-Frank Rulemaking Schedule?

Many members have emailed asking whether the slew of JOBS Act rulemaking ahead of Corp Fin will impact the timing of its Dodd-Frank rulemaking projects. Although I haven't heard anyone from Corp Fin address this yet - and the SEC's Dodd-Frank Implementation Schedule hasn't changed - I can't see how it won't given the incredibly tight timeframe in which the Staff has to work.

How tight? Keith Bishop notes how the timeframe is so tight for the JOBS Act rulemaking - in his blog entitled "The SEC's Rule Making Rule Doesn't Follow The Rules" - that it might be impossible to finish under the President's recent rulemaking directive...

Dodd-Frank: The SEC Finally Establishes the New "Investor Advisory Committee"

However, the SEC continues to plug away at its Dodd-Frank obligations - yesterday, it announced the formation of the new "Investor Advisory Committee" that was mandated by Section 911 of Dodd-Frank. Among the 21 members of the new committee is Steve Wallman - the tech guru that doubled as a SEC Commissioner in the '90s who hasn't been heard from much during the past decade...

- Broc Romanek

April 9, 2012

JOBS Act Signed: Ready, Set, Crowdfund!

On Thursday afternoon, President Obama signed the JOBS Act and it was off to the races for law firms as a new wave of memos bombarded the airwaves that night (we continue to post them in our "JOBS Act" Practice Area). There was a wave of other activity too - many crowdfunding services began (as will be covered in a future blog) and some regulatory activity as discussed below.

In addition, here is just a smattering of JOBS Act coverage in the press over the past week:

- DealBook's "JOBS Act Jeopardizes Safety Net for Investors"
- DealBook's "From Congress, a Law Befitting a Sausage Factory"
- Keith Bishop's "Crowdfunding - There Will Be Investor Losses"
- D&O Diary's "The Impact of the JOBS Act on D&O Liability"
- Keith Bishop's "NASAA Slams The JOBS Act, But Have The States Really Been Handcuffed?"
- Huffington Post's "Obama JOBS Act Leaves Labor Fuming In Democratic Feud"
- Reuter's "Analysis: Jobs Act doesn't mean Wild West for companies"

Corp Fin Issues Confidential Filing Guidance for Emerging Growth Companies

On Thursday, Corp Fin announced these procedures by which emerging growth companies can furnish a confidential IPO registration statement to the Staff. Section 106 of the JOBS Act provides that an EGC may submit its IPO registration statement to the Corp Fin Staff in draft form for confidential review - conditioned on the furnishing of the confidential submission and all amendments publicly with the SEC no later than 21 days prior to the date the company first conducts a road show for its IPO. Here's more about this guidance culled from this O'Melveny & Myers memo:

Under this guidance, one copy of the draft registration statement should be sent to the following address:

Draft Registration Statement
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
100 F Street, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20549

The Division also announced the following with regard to the submission of draft registration statements for IPOs of emerging growth companies:

- the submission should include a transmittal letter confirming the issuer's status as an emerging growth company;
- the draft registration statement should be submitted either as a text-searchable PDF file supplied on a CD/DVD or, alternatively, on paper (it may not be stapled or bound if submitted on paper); and
- there is no requirement to provide a registration fee at the time a confidential submission is made.

Following its receipt of a confidential submission, the Division will contact the emerging growth company to confirm receipt of the submission and to advise it of the office assigned to review the submission.

Emerging growth companies with questions regarding the draft registration statement submission and review process should call (202) 551-5867.

- Confidential Submissions by Foreign Private Issuers - In addition to the confidential submission process for emerging growth companies, the Division has long had a confidential submission process for certain foreign private issuers. This process is described in our Client Alert here. In its guidance, the Division announced that, going forward, any foreign private issuer that is permitted to submit a draft registration statement (either as an emerging growth company or under the Division's foreign private issuer confidential submission policy) must now submit that draft registration statement in the same format and to the same address discussed above. In connection with this requirement, foreign private issuers may no longer use the e-mail address that the Division had provided for confidential submissions.

- Application of Section 5 to Confidential Submissions - The Division took the opportunity in the guidance to make clear that the confidential submission of a draft registration statement is not a public filing. Accordingly, a registration statement submitted through this process is not considered "filed" for purposes of Section 5 of the Securities Act.

JOBS Act and General Solicitation: 14 Law Firm White Paper

Also on Thursday, 14 law firms joined together to issue this white paper to address questions about private offerings during the transition period until the SEC adopts the required revisions to Rule 144A and Rule 506 under Regulation D. Under the JOBS Act, the SEC has 90 days - by July 4th - to eliminate certain existing prohibitions on general solicitation or general advertising. As noted in this Morrison & Foerster memo, the white paper "concludes that, until the SEC adopts final rules as directed by Title II of the JOBS Act, market participants relying on the Rule 506 and Rule 144A safe harbors will generally continue to implement customary procedures for these offerings. The report also concludes that market participants will continue to satisfy conditions of applicable safe harbors such as Securities Act Rules 135c, 152 and 155, as well as comply with applicable SEC and staff guidance regarding the integration of concurrent private and public offerings."

- Broc Romanek

April 5, 2012

SEC Issues Latest Dodd-Frank Mandated Report on Revamping the Agency

While we didn't see a flood of Dodd-Frank Act rulemaking in the first quarter of 2012 (there was one proposed rule relating to identity theft red flags, a final rule providing exemptions for securities-based swaps discussed below, changes to the net worth standard for accredited investors, and rules regarding investment adviser performance fees), the Staff did deliver the second of four reports to Congress on the implementation of consultant recommendations, as required by Section 967(c) of the Dodd-Frank Act. The SEC Staff had engaged Boston Consulting Group to comply with Section 967(b), which directed the SEC to engage an independent consultant to conduct a broad and independent assessment of the SEC's internal operations, structure, funding, and the agency's relationship with SROs.

The report notes that over the past year, the Staff has conducted assessments of potential organizational improvement opportunities under an initiative called the SEC Mission Advancement Program (MAP). The report notes operational improvements in three key areas: (1) reorganizing critical internal infrastructure, such as the Division of Enforcement and the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations, as well as the restructuring important administrative offices; (2) analyzing a broad array of agency activities in an effort to improve efficiency and the distribution of resources to key activities, implement stronger internal controls, and improve responsiveness; and (3) identifying areas for cost improvement, resulting in projected saving of $8.3 million over the next two years. However, the report notes that, given the limited resources that the SEC has available now, future activity will be focused on only a limited number of projects.

SEC Adopts Key Exemptions for Security-Based Swaps

Last week, the SEC adopted rules which exempt transactions by clearing agencies in security-based swaps from all provisions of the 1933 Act (other than the Section 17(a) anti-fraud provisions), as well as exempt these security-based swaps from 1934 Act registration requirements and from the provisions of the Trust Indenture Act, provided that conditions specified in the rules are met. Title VII of the Dodd-Frank Act does not contain an exemption from the 1933 Act or the 1934 Act registration provisions, or from Trust Indenture Act qualification, for security-based swaps. In the SEC's view, however, compliance by a clearing agency with the registration and qualification provisions would likely be impracticable and frustrate the purposes of Title VII, which seeks to ensure that, wherever possible and appropriate, security-based swaps are cleared. The final rules are effective April 16, 2012.

JOBS Act to be Signed Today: Time to Generally Solicit?

The Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act will be signed today at a ceremony in the Rose Garden this afternoon. While a number of key portions of the law will go into effect immediately, most notably the breaks for "emerging growth companies," many parts of the law will require further SEC action to implement the changes. Notably, Title II's repeal of the ban on general solicitation and general advertising in Rule 506 offerings directs the SEC to change its rules, rather than changing the rules effective upon enactment - likewise for the provisions regarding crowdfunding and Regulation A style offerings. There will no doubt be guidance forthcoming on these topics once the JOBS Act is enacted, so stay tuned.

- Dave Lynn

April 4, 2012

More on the JOBS Act: Crowdfunding

Nothing says "Jumpstart Our Business Startups" more than crowdfunding, the seemingly new approach to raising capital over the Internet that has been the focus of much of the debate and criticism in connection with the legislative efforts that culminated in last week's passage of the JOBS Act. In my mind, crowdfunding is not really something new, in that people have been soliciting funds from friends, family and those who share an interest for a long time (think, e.g., the March of Dimes) - this activity is now supercharged thanks to the power of the Internet and social media. As we noted in the July-August 2011 issue of The Corporate Counsel, until the JOBS Act came along, crowdfunding didn't fit nicely into existing 1933 Act exemptions, and efforts have been underway for a few years to encourage the SEC to adopt a small offering exemption that was specifically tailored to crowdfunding.

The JOBS Act, after some debate resulting in an amendment to the crowdfunding title when the legislation was considered by the Senate, delivers on the promise of a 1933 Act exemption for crowdfunding, but with some strings attached in the name of investor protection. In particular, Title III, "Crowdfunding," will amend Section 4 of the 1933 Act to add a new paragraph (6), which provides an exemption from registration subject to the conditions that: (1) the aggregate amount sold to all investors by the issuer, including any amount sold in reliance on the crowdfunding exemption during the 12-month period preceding the date of the transaction, is not more than $1,000,000; (2) the aggregate amount sold to any investor by the issuer, including any amount sold in reliance on the crowdfunding exemption during the 12-month period preceding the date of the transaction, does not exceed: (a) the greater of $2,000 or 5 percent of the annual income or net worth of the investor, as applicable, if either the annual income or the net worth of the investor is less than $100,000; or (b) 10 percent of the annual income or net worth of an investor, as applicable, not to exceed a maximum aggregate amount sold of $100,000, if either the annual income or net worth of the investor is equal to or more than $100,000; (3) the transaction is conducted through a registered broker-dealer or funding portal that complies with the requirements of the exemption; and (4) the issuer complies with the requirements of the exemption.

The information requirements contemplated by the exemption ― which apply to both issuers and broker-dealers/funding portals ― are relatively steep, in that they contemplate providing information about risks (including asking questions of investors about risk), information about the issuer (including financial statements with varying levels of review/audit depending on the target amount raised), information about the offering (including a target amount where the issuer doesn't receive the funds until the target amount is reached), and even ongoing SEC reporting after the offering is completed. The legislation contemplates the adoption of a whole new regulatory scheme applicable to the "funding portals" that host crowdfunding offerings, while at the same time giving those funding portals a break from full-blown broker-dealer registration. Intermediaries involved in crowdfunding offerings (or wanting to be involved in crowdfunding offerings) will need to figure out if they want to go with a broker-dealer model, or the presumably the more lightly regulated funding portal model.

But just in case you were getting excited to go out tomorrow and raise $1 million for a hot dog stand, note that the crowdfunding exemption leaves a lot for the SEC to determine through the rulemaking process. The JOBS Act directs the SEC to adopt implementing rules within 270 days of enactment, and who knows whether the SEC will be able to meet that deadline given the wide-ranging nature of this exemption and the seemingly obvious investor protection concerns that it raises.

Crowdfunding Gets an Association

Earlier this week, a collection of over fifty companies and individuals announced the formation of the National Crowdfunding Association. The NCFA is charged with "supporting, educating and protecting the American crowdfunding industry." It is comprised of companies and individuals, funding portals, consultants and vendors to the industry. The group is going to hold its first National Crowdfunding Conference in July. Judging from my e-mail inbox these days, they are not going to be alone in holding crowdfunding events over the next few months.

Up Next: A Crowdfunding SRO?

A group is also seeking to establish a self-regulatory organization for the crowdfunding industry, to be dubbed the "Crowdfunding Industry Self Regulating Organization." It is unclear at this time whether this effort will be successful and whether this group would ultimately become subject to SEC oversight. It will be very interesting to watch how this crowdfunding "industry" develops following enactment of the JOBS Act and the development of the SEC's rules.

- Dave Lynn

April 3, 2012

The New ISS Feedback Review Board

ISS recently announced a new "feedback review board," which is designed to be used by investors, issuers, and other interested parties who wish to communicate with ISS about its research, policies and recommendations. The feedback review board is a web-based form where "market constituents" can submit comments "regarding accuracy of research, accuracy of data, policy application and general fairness of ISS policies, research and recommendations." This can also be a place to notify ISS about factual inaccuracies in its data or research. ISS says that it may not respond to every submission through this review board. The review board is not supposed to supplant regular channels for communicating with ISS, and it isn't a forum for seeking answers to policy questions or interpretations or lobbying for favorable vote recommendations. It is unclear whether this will be something that issuers would really be inclined to utilize, particularly given that larger issuers usually get a chance to correct factual inaccuracies in ISS reports prior to issuance. In any event, it certainly seems like it may at least open up another avenue to vent.

More JOBS Act Fun Facts

With the signing of the JOBS Act scheduled for this Thursday, it seems like a good time to highlight some of the more promising aspects of the Act. Title IV of the Act could ultimately turn out to be one of the unsung heroes of the legislation in terms of the impact on capital formation, depending on how it gets implemented by the SEC. This portion of the JOBS Act creates a whole new exemption under Section 3(b) of the Securities Act, under which an issuer will be able to offer and sell up to $50 million in securities within a 12-month period in reliance on the exemption. The issuer can offer equity securities, debt securities, and debt securities convertible or exchangeable for equity interests (including any guarantees of such securities), and the securities sold under this exemption will be offered and sold publicly (without restrictions on the use of general solicitation or general advertising) and will not be deemed "restricted securities." The issuer may also "test the waters" with respect to the offering prior to filing any offering statement with the SEC, subject to any additional conditions or requirements that may be imposed by the SEC. The securities will be considered "covered securities" for NSMIA purposes and not subject to state securities review if offered and sold on a national securities exchange, or the securities are offered or sold to a "qualified purchaser."

We affectionately dubbed the legislative initiatives which served as precursors to Title IV "Regulation A+" in the May-June 2011 issue of The Corporate Counsel, noting how the new Section 3(b) exemption being contemplated was an improved version of the much-maligned and rarely used Regulation A. The reason that this new provision is relatively exciting is that it could potentially open the door again to what are effectively smaller initial public offerings up to $50 million, which we rarely see today (rather, IPOs are more often in the $100 million to $200 million range in terms of amounts raised). Much will depend on how the SEC decides to implement the exemption, as it does have strings attached like submitting an offering statement to the SEC and distributing the offering statement to investors, as well as providing periodic disclosures after the offering is completed. This provision, unlike many of the other parts of the JOBS Act, doesn't specify any deadline for rulemaking, which unfortunately may mean that it gets back-burnered while the SEC attends to more pressing rulemakings with short deadlines.

Board Portal Developments

In this podcast, Andrew Moore of Computershare Governance Services discusses the latest developments in board portals, including:

- What are you seeing companies doing in the area of board communications? What are the major trends?
- How is Computershare's BoardWorks different than other board portals?
- What is driving directors and companies to look to this type of solution? Are there legal and compliance issues that online services like this can address?

-Dave Lynn

April 2, 2012

JOBS Act Enactment Imminent: What to Do Now

It seems highly likely that the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (some call it the "JOBS Act," others call it the "Jumpstart Act" for short) will get signed into law this week, and many of the questions I have been getting revolve around the immediate impact of the new law on offerings.

Title I of the JOBS Act, "Reopening American Capital Markets to Emerging Growth Companies," will be effective immediately upon enactment, so that is where most of the action will be under the JOBS Act until the SEC adopts the implementing rules required under the other titles. For a company that is contemplating an initial public offering filing in the near future and meets the generous definition of "emerging growth company" (e.g., having total annual revenue of less than $1 billion during the most recently completed fiscal year), the most immediate effect will be the availability of a process to submit a confidential draft of the registration statement to the SEC for its review, provided that the initial filing and all amendments are filed on EDGAR no later than 21 days before the date of the roadshow. Based on what has been said at recent conferences, I expect that the Staff will issue guidance very soon after enactment to describe how this confidential review process will work in practice. In terms of content of the registration statement, any company meeting the "emerging growth company" definition that is contemplating an IPO filing (or that is already in registration) will want to consider the availability of reduced financial statement requirements ― only two years of audited financial statements instead of three years, MD&A corresponding to the number of years of audited financial statements presented in the filing, and the "smaller reporting company" scaled disclosures for executive compensation (for more on the executive compensation provisions, see Mark Borges' blog on CompensationStandards.com). While these breaks sound good, companies may still need to consider if the reduced disclosures might hurt the marketability of the offering, particularly for those companies that are already on file and have provided the more fulsome information. Under Section 107(a) of the JOBS Act, a company may forgo any exemption and instead comply with the requirements applicable to an issuer that is not an emerging growth company.

In terms of the breaks that the JOBS Act provides on permissible "test the waters" communications with QIBs and institutional accredited investors, we may not see issuers and underwriters rushing out right away to engage in those communications, particularly with respect to written communciations. Instead, the reaction might be akin to what we saw with free writing prospectuses back in 2005, where there was (and continues to be) caution about the use of written communications outside of a Section 10(a) prospectus while in IPO mode. Likewise, we may not see an immediate rush to providing research in an around the time of the IPO ― despite the fact that the research will no longer be deemed an offer under the Securities Act ― because I think it will likely take at some lead time for banks to get comfortable (if they can get there at all) with the process of providing research for IPO companies before, during and immediately after the offering, as well as the advisability of that practice from an overall marketing perspective. In any event, all of these bold new communications rules are being actively considered as we speak, and will undoubtedly change the landscape for IPOs in the long term.

It is important to note that the other capital raising provisions of the Act ― the repeal of the ban on general solicitation and general advertising in Rule 506 offerings, the new crowdfunding exemption under Securities Act Section 4 and the new Regulation A-style Section 3(b)(2) exemption ― all require SEC rulemaking to implement the changes contemplated by the Act, so we will not likely see any action on those provisions until later on this year, at the earliest.

Be on the lookout for more coverage in the upcoming issue of The Corporate Counsel.

April Fool's Day? It is No Joke at the SEC this Year

It is hard to imagine a day when the SEC wasn't so saddled with Congressionally-mandated rulemaking projects that folks there would actually take the time to play an April Fool's Day prank poking fun at the SEC's own rule proposals. Just five short years ago -- in those simpler, pre-financial crisis days ― Broc noted how Chairman Cox had issued a fake press release announcing the Commission's plans to require that publicly-listed companies disclose the pay and perks of the "top 100 people who make more than the CEO." This was obviously poking fun at the "Katie Couric" rule that surfaced during the 2006 executive compensation rulemaking, which of course never saw the light of day.

I am afraid that in today's post-Dodd-Frank Act world, we wouldn't necessarily identify something like that press release as being a joke, but rather we would assume it is just another new rule pursuant to some Congressional mandate along the lines of disclosure regarding the ratio of CEO pay to median employee pay, or conflict minerals for that matter.

I was still at the SEC when this fake press release came out (but I had nothing to do with it), and I will never forget how my friend in the SEC press office called to tell me about the impending release first thing in the morning, because he was very concerned that I might have some sort of medical emergency when I saw the press release hit the wires.

Our April Eminders is Posted!

We have posted the April issue of our complimentary monthly email newsletter. Sign up today to receive it by simply inputting your email address!

- Dave Lynn